Recent findings about medical devices are hard to swallow.

June 23, 2015 | By R. Brendan Dummigan of Pickett Dummigan LLP

The Department of Justice is investigating a series of infections connected with duodenoscopes manufactured and sold by Olympus Medical Systems. Duodenoscopes are tools used by medical professionals to diagnose and treat problems in the small intestine. These scopes are inserted through the mouth and down into the digestive system until it gets to where doctors need it to be. These scopes are elaborate machines and can be equipped with cameras, lights, and guidewires to help doctors get to the root of a medical problem.

However, the scopes manufactured by Olympus have proven to be difficult to clean and their unsanitary use has led to the outbreak of drug-resistant superbugs in hospitals around the country. A few days after the investigation was disclosed to the public, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration concluded that these duodenoscopes lacked a “reasonable assurance of safety and efficacy.”

The importance of using clean medical equipment is obvious, especially when it is being inserted into the human body. Cases of severe infections and even the spread of HIV have been traced to dirty equipment used in medical procedures.

What is more startling is that the technology that is being created to save lives is often the same technology that has sanitation problems. Complex machines and equipment, such as the duodenoscope, have many moving parts that make it difficult, if not impossible, to clean.

Decades ago, medical instruments were almost exclusively made of steel and glass. These tools were simple and sterilization required only a heavy blast of steam to clean. The growth of minimally invasive surgeries brought flexible endoscopes that became smaller and more complex. Many have long narrow channels, tiny holes, and bending parts that can provide bacteria and human tissue a place to hide. Many of these tools are now made with plastic and other polymers that can’t stand up to the high temperatures used by the steam cleaning method. As a result, intensive cleaning policies and procedures are required to make sure that the equipment is safe for re-use. However, if medical equipment is designed in a way that makes it impossible to clean, the manufacturers can be on the hook for selling a dangerous product; and hospitals can be on the hook for using them.

This seems to be the case with the Olympus duodenoscopes. If you or a loved one have undergone a procedure with any duodenoscopes and have subsequently developed a severe infection or acquired a disease that you didn’t have before; you may have a claim against Olympus and/or the hospitals where the procedure was performed. Selling defective hospital equipment is like selling dirty needles and patients harmed by a manufacturer’s negligence deserve to be fully and fairly compensated for their pain and suffering. Our law firm may be able to help you or loved one discover a claim. For a free consultation, call 503-405-8037.